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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Football Fever

Football fever? I don’t have it. Not like many folks here in Southeast Texas where all levels of football are taken very seriously.
When I came to this area forty years back, I was surprised at the intensity of support football enjoyed. Having come from the Fort Worth area, I thought I knew something about football fandom, but SE Texas’ unbridled and enthusiastic support puts the northern metroplex to shame.
Now, I enjoy football, but as a benign observer rather than participant. Years back, I played, but as in most of my sporting endeavors, I never made first team. I was lucky to make the last team, and in fact, a couple times—well, I won’t go there.
In addition to my PN-G Indians, I watch the Cowboys and the Texans, but if I miss a game, I don’t lose any sleep over it.
My athletic shortcomings in no way reflect my enjoyment of the game so when all of the Penn State news exploded across the country, I was as stunned as the majority of readers, whether football fans or not.
I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering of all involved so consequently, it is difficult to judge the appropriate steps to bring closure to all of the affected.
Last Sunday, I read where Paterno’s statue was taken down. I halfway expected demonstrations or sit-ins if the event took place, but fortunately, the removal was peaceful.

 Now, no one can deny the guy built a great well-known that produced hundreds of solid citizens. But then no one can deny that the guy also made an error in judgment many years ago, an error worsened by years of silence.
While to some, it might seem unfair to say as much, but that mistake will always be remembered instead of the 409 wins he racked up. Correction, 298 wins since 112 were vacated. Instead on the winningest football coach in the NCAA, he is now 12th on the list; 5th on the FBS list.
One of the unpleasant facets of life is there are many decent people who have a lifetime of good work destroyed by a careless or thoughtless decision.
Should life be that way? I don’t know. All I can say is each of us has a moral compass that should always point us in the right direction. Most of us at one time or another have experienced difficulty in heeding the direction the needle points, but that’s where faith comes in.
And character.
There is not a person reading this who can honestly say the Penn State/Sandusky cover-up was legitimate. Consequently, as wrenching as the problem is to the Paterno’s family, the victims and their families are given a modicum of satisfaction although the pain will be with them forever.
In addition to vacating wins, Penn State took a four year ban on postseason play, fours of year scholarship reduction, five years probation for football, and a 60 million dollar fine.
Well, at least it wasn’t the death penalty, but it comes as close to it as the actual sanction.
The death penalty was pronounced once in NCAA football history--SMU back in eighties. Sixteen players were paid over $61,000.00 over a period of time, a payout acknowledged and approved by the SMU Board of Governors on which Bill Clements served. Clements if you remember served as Texas Governor from 1979-83 and ’86-‘91.
The fallout from that death penalty led not only to the eventual dissolution of the old Southwest Conference, but the complete destruction of what had once been one of the most storied football programs in the county.
Since then, SMU has lost around seventy-five percent of its games.
SMU deserved the punishment.
They lied to the NCAA about maintaining slush funds to pay players. Bill Clements served as chairman of the SMU board of governors between his terms as Texas Governor. It was during his tenure the payments were approved, so it is obvious the practice was wide spread and well known among the school’s administration.
As horrendous as the Penn State shame might be, I can’t see destroying a program when it was the administration not the players who perpetrated the situation. At SMU, players were involved. I’ve heard nothing of player involvement in the Penn State mess.
I think the NCAA wanted to make a statement to football, but naturally, with what little wisdom the NCAA possesses, it punishes the innocent with the guilty.
Whether you like the fact or not, college football is big business. And it will always be such.
This decision will send financial difficulties surging through the university and community like a tsunami.
I wholeheartedly agree that justice must be done. So do it. Clean house of those involved; prosecute if necessary those who kept quiet so Sandusky could continue to sate his evil lust.
But don’t persecute the players, the university students, the community, or any of the attendant businesses relying on the business of football.
We all have feet of clay. That’s why none of us can walk on water. And that is also why we must always pay attention to that little moral voice in our head. Ignore it that one time too many, and like a building imploding, our life will come tumbling down about our ears.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Whoever says old dogs can’t learn new tricks is wrong. They can learn. It might be painful, but they can learn. Here’s how I know.
As much as we enjoy the beach, come the Fourth of July, we usually just hang around the house. Maybe barbeque under the live oak and enjoy a dip in the pool. Done it for the last twenty or so years.
This year was a little different, and upon reflection, I understand a little better the relationship between the expressions ‘growing old’ and ‘wisdom’ and ‘pain’.
You see, our younger daughter and her husband rented a cabin down around Crystal Beach for the week of the Fourth. We couldn’t decide when to go down. Bask in the sun, spend one night, then maybe visit Galveston for lunch the next day.
Now we knew the Fourth would be jammed along the beach, but we’d never been on that holiday, and remembering way back—way, way back to those halcyon days of blistering sun, sweat, cold beer, sand between the toes, we decided to give it a shot.
The day dawned bright and clear, an ideal beach day.
We arrived around ten. Our son-in-law, Jason, was there to meet us. I headed back to the car for the last of our items. As I made my way across the yard, I heard what sounded like ‘Pa, Pa.’ I looked around, but all I saw was Jason’s pickup. Then came the words again. “Pa, Pa, Pa.”
All of a sudden, a grinning face popped over the windowsill and my little granddaughter, Kenli, laughed.
Of course, grandpa had to pick her up and play with her.
Someone suggested walking to the beach. We were only in the second row back. I eyed the hot sand, the blistering sun, and opted for the pickup. Besides, someone had to hold Kenli.
My eyes popped out when we reached the beach. That sucker was jammed. There wasn’t enough room for a greased goose to squirt through.
As far as I could see up and down the beach, gaily colored canopies were sandwiched shoulder-too-shoulder with only enough space between them for one or two vehicles.
Now, Jason is one of those who guys likes to get everything in place. He’d gone down early to set up two ten-foot square canopies side by side, drop off several ice chests as well as lawn chairs and, not forgetting the little ones, a couple of canvas cots for naps.
All that was missing was a TV, and I’ve no doubt he could have probably figured out how to do that if we’d demanded one—or if LSU were playing.
The little ones played in the sand and water. Keegan and Mikey used their little boogie-boards and actually were growing somewhat adept at riding them. From time to time, Mikey or Keegan would run up and ask me to ‘boogie’. I begged off.
I was sitting in the shade sipping on a cool beer. Sand between the toes and sweat somehow had lost their appeal.
The kids’ parents enjoyed the sun, gathering at the water’s edge, laughing and telling stories. I couldn’t help remembering how I once did that, way back when. Way, way back when.
My wife, Gayle, braver than me, sat in the sun at the edge of the canopy with Susan, our older daughter. But I was content, relaxing in a lawn chair in the shade of the tent, nursing ice cold beer to combat the heat.
We had a nice breeze, and couple times, I started to take off my tee shirt and straw hat, but opted not too. Don’t misunderstand. The fact Jason and his friends’ bodies looked sculpted out of granite had nothing to do with my own physique. I was sculpted. When my chest dropped to my waistline, it left the smoothest sculpted little curve.
Gayle and Susan stayed out in the sun.
After a few hours, Kenli, the granddaughter, grew sleepy.
I’ll be honest For some inexplicable reason, I was tired. I’d had enough heat and sand for a while so I volunteered to stay with her a the cabin. Besides, I had a new mystery to read, and the idea of peace and quiet, a good book, an air-conditioned room, and a cold beer was like playing four aces on a pair of threes.
No way could I lose.
Later, we went back to the beach.
We planned on a lazy evening, and a relaxing night watching fireworks.
But age has a way of creeping up on a body.
I never realized how tired you can get sitting in a chair in the shade drinking beer. Now, I have noticed over the years, I can’t take the sun like I did when I was just a younker. I can wear shorts eight months a year, but my legs seldom tan. Oh, they might grow one or two shades darker, but a couple days out of the sun and they’re lily white once again.
So, when I say my wife had just a wee bit too much sun, you know what I mean. Remember what it was like to get a sunburn and can’t stand anything to touch your skin?
That’s how she felt., And I was exhausted. Don’t kid yourself, sitting in the shade an be tiring.
By six o’clock, we were headed back to Port Neches for baggy clothes and a handful of lysine for fever blisters.
We missed the fireworks.
Keegan said they were fantastic and he could even see the Galveston firework display across the channel.
All in all, it was a great day even though Gayle hurt for a couple days. Me, I was still tired the next day. Seems like it always takes me longer to recuperate than last time. You know what I mean?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Day the Lights Went Out in America

Most of you who are reading this are intelligent enough to realize just how severe the consequences for our country to be so deeply in debt.
Unfortunately, you’re in the minority. Such a small percentage of knowledgeable readers sometimes makes me wonder what’s the use to constantly point out the draconian future that lies ahead of us if we maintain our present course.
But that in itself, is the reason to keep trying. There are dreary times ahead unless you don’t mind paying seventy or eighty percent of your income as taxes.
As you know by now, the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare will be funded by taxes—taxes—IRS—that sort of thing to the tune of 16,000 plus new IRS hires to make sure we pay up. Got it?
I ran across a little explanation the other day that rips all the flowery rhetoric from the political ‘rose-covered-glasses’ discourses and gives a simple account of just where America is today financially.
You know, and if you don’t you should, that recently, the United States credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poors from AAA to AA, a first in our history.
And that isn’t the kind of first of which we can brag.
Why did this happen?
Simple. Too much debt.
If you have lousy credit, you pay more to borrow.
And that’s where we’re heading, No, that’s where we are.
Look at the following figures.
U.S. Tax Revenue     $2,170.000,000,000
Federal Budget       $3,820,000,000,000
New Debt             $1,650,000,000,000
National Debt       $14,271,000,000,000
Recent Budget Cuts      $38,500,000,000

If you’re like me, all those zeroes are confusing. The author of this little matrix made it simple by removing eight zeroes from each line to approximate an average family’s budget.
Annual income           $21,700.
Family budget           $38,200.
New credit card debt    $16,500.
Balance on credit cards$142,170.
Total Budget Cuts          $385.

Now that’s sobering, and the figures are constantly changing, and not downward—except maybe budget cuts.
Right now, I can hear folks nodding and saying, “Yep. That blasted Bush. He done it all.”
Well, maybe we need to look at it from a little different perspective.
Before you grunt and figure I’m making excuses for him, figure again. There were events in his administration of which I didn’t approve; there were events that gave him no choice unless some of you think he should have asked the radical Muslins to forgive us for putting heavily populated buildings in front of airplanes they had stolen.
The last quarter of 2006, the country under the Bush administration had a quarterly GDP of 3.2 right on the heels of another 3.2 and 4.4. From 2001 to 2007 (his administration), the Gross Domestic Products grew from 2.45 to 4.4 then dropped to 3.2. This last GDP was with both chambers run by Democrats.
The Bush economic policies set a record straight 52 months of job growth according to Meet the Press.
The Dow closed at 12,600.
In December, 2006, the unemployment rate stood at 4.6%

Then came January, 2007- the day the lights went out in the United States.
That’s when Democrats took over. For the first time since 1995, the Democrats controlled both chambers, although under a Republican president. That was the 110th Congress.
In January, 2007, Barney Frank, Democrat, took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee, Nancy Pelosi the House, Harry Reid the Senate.
Take a look at the political makeup in Washington at that point.
Democrats controlled both chambers; Democrats headed up Financial Services and Senate Banking.
Bush faced a hostile Congress the next three years
Now you tell me.
Whose fault was the economic meltdown that came 15 months later, the lame duck president or the two chambers controlled by a hostile party that opposed Bush until they could get their own president? Remember, Congress controls the budget.
Then there was Fannie and Freddie, and the blame was placed on Bush. But look again at what Congressman Artur Davis, D-Al had to say on September 30, 2008. “Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie. I defended their efforts to encourage affordable homeownership when in retrospect I should have heeded the concerns raised by their regulator in 2004. Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong.”
In 2003, Bush urged Congress to tighten regulations on Fannie and Freddie, but Congress did nothing. In fact, Barney Frank suggested the administration had a ‘sky is falling’ wish.
Congress and Obama as a young senator fought against reform of Freddie and Fannie.
That doesn’t surprise me nor would it you if you knew that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae paid off politicians for their support. John Kerry was given $165,000; Barack Obama $126,000. and Chris Dodd, $120,000.
Congress is responsible for budgets, not the president. Using continuing resolutions, Reid and Pelosi bypassed Bush those last years while waiting for Obama to take over.
From 2008 on, Democrats in both chambers had complete control of budget and the spending.
Whatever Obama inherited from 2007 came from two Democrat chambers. Whatever he’s inherited since came from him.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Horned Toad Escapade

A couple weeks we attended the closing session of our two grandsons’ Vacation Bible School at Proctor Street Baptist Church.
It’s a fine church, led by a dedicated minister, supported by committed staff members, sustained by tireless volunteers, and blessed with faithful parishioners.
Now, VBS today isn’t a whole lot different than when I was in vacation bible school back in the Middle Ages. I guess the big difference is in the music today. It’s sort of what I’d call hip-hop. For all I know it might be ‘rip rap’ or ‘slip-slap’, but whatever it is, the little ones really get with it, and the message remains the same. And I have no doubt Jesus is tapping His toes right along with them.
Sitting out there in the sanctuary, I looked on as grade by grade sang their little songs they’d worked so hard on throughout the week.
I have to say, the youngsters put on a good show, and to a single one, they were all well behaved, not like some of us when we were in the spotlight.
And that brings me around to one of the worst, but most deserved spankings I ever got. Vacation bible school was right in the middle of it.
That’s right.
Now Dad was not a church-goer. Mom dutifully pulled my brother and me out of bed every Sunday and out of the mud holes on Wednesday and headed out for church.
Now up in the Texas Panhandle, horned toads abounded.
For those who have no idea what a horned toad (we called they horny toads) looked like, they were miniature creatures from Jurassic Park. Sort of light brown in color, they sported two spiked horns protruding from their heads and several smaller spikes covering their backs.
They were gentle creatures. You could turn them on their backs and rub their tummies and they’d go to sleep. There was rumor that they would spit blood in your eyes and blind you, but I never saw any evidence of it. At the same time, even when I was rubbing their bellies, I was mighty cautious to keep the little guys at arm’s length.
Biggest one I ever laid eyes on was about five or six inches long and four wide. Real old timers. Come spring, tiny horny toads were everywhere, little one-inchers, and those are the ones that caused Jerry and me all the trouble.
No, truth is Jerry and me caused Jerry and me all the trouble. For seventy years I’ve put the blame on those little horny toads, but the truth is, we two mischievous boys were the blame.
Now at our vacation bible school, we sang traditional hymns, never venturing into different types of music. For two eleven-year-old boys, standing before a congregation and singing half-a-dozen hymns gets sort of boring.
Now I had an uncle who smoked Bull Durham cigarettes. He always had empty tobacco bags around, so Jerry and I stashed a dozen or so horny toads in a bag, and he slipped it in his pocket.
We figured on turning them loose among the girls when we kids all gathered for refreshments after the service, but to our horror, the little toads slipped out of the bag while we were singing. Jerry later claimed some of the horns were sticking him through the thin cloth and he was trying to move them around. Whatever the reason, twelve or thirteen little horny toads shot out of his pocket and scattered like a covey of quail right under the feet of the choir.
Best I can recollect, we were in the middle of “Jesus Loves Me” when the screaming broke out. The word ‘loves’ turned into shrieks.
The girls in the choir clambered over the chairs, Two or three of the smaller boys shouted with glee and scrambled to catch a toad, the preacher’s face grew red, the congregation roared, and Mom fainted.
A couple little fellers must have made it into the congregation for half-a dozen or so little old white-haired ladies all around the sanctuary popped to their feet and screamed.
If today’s Child Protective Services had seen my rear and legs after my spanking, they’d probably have tried to arrest Dad, which would have been s dreadful mistake on their part.
Things were a heck of a lot different back then.
Strange isn’t it. There I was in Proctor Street Church, listening to the little ones I cherish so much and at the same time, remembering the past with sweet nostalgia.
The only thing the VBS kids turned loose at Proctor Street was the Spirit of the Lord and a lot of fun.
My younger grandson, Mikey, is shy. The first couple songs, he sort of laid back, but when the third came along, the kids were swinging their arms and bouncing around like rubber balls, the little squirt jumped feet first into the singing and dancing. I was proud as punch of that boy.
Keegan, the older of the two knows no stranger. He stood out in front of all of them, although I don’t think he was supposed to. He swung his arms and danced to all three of the songs.
But the little guy who stole the show looked to be about four or so. He bounced back and forth across the stage in time to the beat of the music, fell to the carpet, twirled on his back, leaped to his feet, did some break dancing, and dropped to the floor again.
If any of us had done that as a kid, all of our moms would have fainted and our fathers would have reached for belts.
Afterward we visited their rooms, saw their work, then drifted over to the gym for ice cream.
And there’s no doubt in my mind the Good Lord was looking down with a big smile on his face just like He did that time when a four-year-old, dressed in a black western outfit, stepped through the back doors of the sanctuary of the Wheeler Methodist Church during offering with two cap pistols in hand and told everyone ‘this is a hold-up’.
But that’s another memory for another time..